Teaching Kids to Organize Their Things

As much as possible, I try to instill in my kids the value and discipline of picking up after themselves. Even little Catalina, at three years old, is learning this habit. I need to repeat instructions with her more often than my older kids. However, they all know that in our home, your mess is your responsibility. When they forget, I remind them.

The homeschool room gets the messiest, especially at the end of the morning when cut and torn paper, writing instruments, craft materials, books and notebooks, as well as a few toys pepper the room. Catalina probably contributes to seventy percent of the disarray. 

Tiana, who doesn’t like disorder, will grab a broom and begin sweeping. Edan takes the initiative to return his books to their proper location. As for Titus and Elijah, they need some gentle pushing to motivate them to clean up as well. Everyone is supposed to put their own books away, on their designated shelves. It’s part of their learning experience, and something that I am pretty sure my future daughters and sons-in-law will thank me for. Wink. 

I have also instructed the household help to reinforce the cleaning-up-after-themselves habit for my kids. It’s so easy to be lazy and delegate tidying up to others, but my kids won’t learn about stewardship, responsibility, or organization this way.

I am not at the level of tidiness that my sister-in-law, Jenny, is…someone who is a neat freak in a good way. She’s my peg for orderliness. Yet, I would like to think that I have improved over the years of being married to a wonderful husband whose idea of a cathartic experience is to clean out his closet and de-clutter. He is strong and masculine, but I find it adorable when I see him standing in front of his side of the walk-in closet, humming a tune while taking stock of what to throw out or give away, how to re-arrange his shoes, or thoughtfully line up his shirts and pants. 

Living with someone who abhors clutter, who feels ruffled when his things are moved an inch from their original location, has caused a little bit of his OCD behavior to rub off on me. I am still messy in comparison. But we do share a common liking for keeping the home tidy. 

Very simply put…we prefer to avoid stacks of objects, books, and papers on desks or cabinets, and we throw away, donate or garage-sale surplus and unused possessions that needlessly collect dust. As I share this, I actually feel guilty about three areas in the home that require sorting yet again — the linen closet with two bins that I haven’t opened in a number of months, the guest room closet which the househelp recently stuffed with miscellaneous items, and the storage room, which is, well, collecting more storage. 

Going back to training the kids…

Recently, I was asked to write about Simply Modular: “the first modular storage system designed for those who like to constantly change interior layout and move around through the use of simple connectable planks. Planks come in different colors are self-assembled into different styles to meet the individual needs of the furniture.” 


My boys jumped on the opportunity to assemble the planks. The experience served as an application for geometry and logic. They had to configure the planks according to their design. And when they made mistakes, it was easy to take the planks apart again. 


Naturally, Titus, my mechanical son, was very eager to participate in this. Elijah, too, took charge of the building. He even instructed me what to do. 



Since the planks were made of lightweight and durable plastic, they could be assembled and transferred to any place in the house. So my kids designed the furniture pieces in the living room and then we carried them to the girls’ room. 

Tiana and Catalina were thrilled! Tiana, as I said, gets really excited about organizing her things. I know, it’s kind of weird, but nice. 

She went to work right away and begged me to help her. Since I had to leave for an appointment, I requested that we resume the task another time. Her response, “You promise, okay?” 

My goodness. This girl likes to be clean and to organize!


The only objective feedback I have on the planks is that the doors don’t close completely. I am trying to figure out a fix for this. But other than that, Simply Modular has provided me with a quick and easy solution for the girls’ storage needs. Plus, we can always redesign and remodel the planks to serve another purpose. 

Other ideas from Simply Modular:

Simply Modular Furniture System, which started in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, is quickly earning popularity among millenials with fast-paced and ever-changing lifestyles, as well as condo investors. It is fun, flexible, practical, durable and affordable, as it combines function, quality, design and value – with sustainability in mind. It is the first of its kind in the country.

Simply Modular are connectable panels that are self-assembled to form different types of furniture – a shelf, cabinet, console table, closet, bed, desk, bench, etc. They may be reused and morphed into different styles and sizes as needed. Storing the panels takes up minimal space as they are flatly stacked in a box, easily transportable. All parts, made from high quality ABS plastic, are 100% waterproof, termite-proof, rust-proof, and can hold up to 200 kilos.
More info on Simply Modular:

G/F SMDC M Place Panay Avenue Quezon City 

Tel No: 0917-637-4152 

Store Hours: 10AM – 8PM Mon – Sun

E-mail: hello@simplymodular.ph

What to Model to Our Children

Modeling who we want our children to become is one of the most effective ways to influence them positively. 


Model the Right Character – Christ-likeness

I grew up in a home where my parents loved God, served God, and taught us to do the same. They weren’t perfect, but I saw a genuine desire and faithfulness to live out the principles they preached. The best version of themselves was at home, with us. I would see my dad delivering sermons at the pulpit and I would think, I trust what he is saying because he lives it out at home. There’s no hypocrisy. 


My dad didn’t yell or shout at us. He was strict and he disciplined us (I was probably the most disciplined, he he) but like my mom, he was an encouraging person. Generally speaking, his even-temperedness kept the climate of the home positive. Although I feared him out of respect, I knew that he wasn’t going to blow up or hurt us when people in the home made mistakes.

Even towards my mom, he was very patient. My mom once joked that she spilled stuff on him during every airplane ride. (He finally decided to sit across the aisle from her rather than right beside her to avoid getting hurt by hot tea or coffee.) I saw what my mom meant when we were having a family dinner and my mom accidentally knocked over a cup of hot tea on him as she reached across the table. He didn’t raise his voice or react in irritation. Instead, he calmly wiped his arm and continued conversing with all of us. I was like, wow. If that was me…I don’t know if I would be so composed!

As for my mom, she was predictably and contagiously joyful when I was a kid. Till this day she is one of my favorite persons to hang out with. There’s something very attractive about her joy in the Lord. 

In fact, when I was struggling with my role as a wife in my early married years Edric would actually tell me, “Why don’t you spend some time with mom? I am sure being with her will make you feel better.” 

He knew that I would come away from my time with her recharged and spiritually energized. And more importantly, she imparted to me godly advice. 

Sometimes, when I am unusually positive, he still asks jokingly, “Did you spend time with mom today?! Why are you so cheerful?!”

The culture of a Christ-centered family has to begin with us, as parents. It’s a top-down thing. What my siblings and I saw in my parents, we copied (the good and the bad, but praise God there was much more good to copy). 

My parents’ positive role-modeling coupled with their intentional discipleship bore fruit in the lives of my siblings and me. Today, my siblings and I, along with our spouse, share the same core values and beliefs as my parents. Even if we have discussions and disagreements every now and then, by God’s grace, we share unity in Him.
I once told my father, “Dad, it feels a little bit like heaven when we all get together. It’s like a foretaste of what heaven might be like someday.”

We talk about what God is doing in our lives, share the victories and the struggles, and come along side one another to encourage and lovingly correct each other so we can all grow in our faith. Furthermore, there’s so much laughter and talking we sometimes get lost in all the conversation and forget what time it is. 

At the center of our family is Jesus Christ and all glory goes to Him. My parents were great parents not because they were special, but because they were committed to Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Model the Right Mission – a passion for the gospel / compassion for the lost

Besides their Christ-likeness, one of the most significant things I saw in my parents’ lives was a passion to share the word of God, to share the gospel. My parents would come home from their out of town or overseas trips and tell us, “Guess what, I shared the gospel with the person beside me on the plane.” 

Or, they would finish a golf game and say, “My caddy accepted the Lord today.” 

As a younger woman, I remember going with my mom to malls and during her encounters with check-out counter clerks, salesladies, waiters, or whoever was serving her, she tried to share the gospel. These moments made such an impression on my heart about the importance of the gospel. 

One of the more dramatic gospel stories of my mom was when she ran after a thief who stole her bag in Trinoma mall. She chased after this woman in her high heels. When a guard finally apprehended the thief, my mom caught up to her and retrieved her purse. 

The guard asked if my mom wanted to file a report against the thief, but she replied, “Oh no, I just want to talk to her for a bit.”

Her more urgent priority was to tell the woman, “There must be some reason why you took my bag. There must be a greater need that you have and so I want to tell you about Jesus.”

The woman thief prayed with my mom to receive Jesus into her heart! 

I needed to see my parents model a passion for the gospel so that it would become a priority for me. The same is true for my own kids. Our second son, Edan, has asked Edric and me numerous times about the realities of heaven and hell. He has struggled with questions like, “What if someone never hears the gospel. Is if fair that they go to hell?”

So whenever he sees us sharing the gospel with people, it matters to him. A few weeks ago, I shared the gospel with one of our household help. Edan overheard me and when I got to the prayer part, I saw him tearing.

Asking if he was okay, he revealed, “Mom, I thought about the verse in the Bible, about how there is rejoicing in heaven when people come to Jesus, and I just felt happy.”

When we had a shoot the other day and he heard me explaining the gospel to one of the moms I had met, he came up to me during the break and asked, “When are you going to do the closure mom? To pray with her?”

“Oh, you were listening?”

“Of course, Mom.” 

Another one of my sons corrected me for not bringing gospel tracts to give to a student who was soliciting money from us when we were at a coffee shop. He reminded me, “I think you should always have a gospel track mom, so you can give it to people.”

“You are right, son.” 

If we don’t show a sense of urgency or compassion for the lost, why will our kids ever grow up to do the same?

Edric and I also believe in involving our children in ministry with us. We don’t want them to feel like ministry takes us away from them. Instead, we want them to witness transformed lives and develop a conviction to be a blessing to others as they accompany us.

When I still lived at home, it was a privilege to observe my parents in action, ministering to others. This is one of the reasons why the principles of God’s word made sense to me. Since my siblings and I would be invited to listen to my parents counsel other couples or singles at the dinner table, we would make the connection – when you follow God, you are blessed, when you don’t, there are painful consequences. We perceived that the people who had joy and peace were the ones who obeyed God’s word. It was also reassuring to see how God could redeem the mistakes of people.

Model the Right Values

Because we live in a world where our children are assaulted daily by values that are contradictory to ours, it’s necessary for us to model the right ones for them. Whether it is the way we deal with conflict and difficult people, how we process trying circumstances, the way we choose to spend our time, talents and money, the habits we have, or the friends we surround ourselves with, our children are watching us closely. They are taking their cues from us.  

What we put emphasis on, they will, too. Take for instance being extravagant. If we want our kids to be frugal and discerning about what they spend on, if we want them to avoid materialism, do they see these convictions lived out in us? Do we demonstrate to them what it means to be a steward of God’s resources? 

One time, I asked my kids, “What do you think mom and dad are most passionate about?”

I was hoping they would immediately volunteer the answer, “You are passionate about God!” 

Instead, I got a very innocent and honest response, “Mom, you are passionate about your phone.” 

Oh my goodness, I thought. What have I been modeling for them?

I tried to explain, “You know that I use my phone for ministry, right? And my bible is on my phone? And I reach out to people through my phone?”

However, I just looked silly trying to defend myself. What my kids were basically telling me was that I spent a lot of time on my phone. So I had to change.

Even in small things, Edric and I have to be careful. We enjoy Netflix, but we have to be mindful of what we watch, even what we listen to because our kids copy us. We can’t say to them, “Don’t watch this show, it’s only for adults.”

As much as possible, we try to watch shows that we can all enjoy as a family. If it’s defiling for our kids to watch something, then why do we think it’s okay for us? Aren’t we called to honor the same temple?  

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This passage also applies to exercise and health. Our kids need to see us being disciplined about our eating, sleeping, and diet. We can’t emphasize healthiness in the home if it’s not backed up by our examples.

At the same time, we can’t be obsessed about wellness either. When Elijah started to act like a hypochondriac, I realized it was my example feeding him with fears. 

So there has to be a balance. Taking care of our bodies is a good thing but not when it moves into the realm of idolatry. 

Model the Right Perspective – A spiritual perspective 

My family experienced a major crisis when I was fifteen. However, long before this event I had observed the manner in which my parents handled various crises in their own lives. When people wronged them, betrayed them, or maligned them, they didn’t take it personally or hold grudges. Instead they processed difficult people and circumstances with spiritual lenses. 

When something or someone was beyond their control, they did their part to fix what they could but they also prayed instead of panicked. They often reminded my siblings and me that God was in control, sovereign, and causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)  

Our children are bound to encounter their own set of challenges in life. Seeing how we respond with faith and trust in God during times of testing will strengthen them for the storms that will come their way. 

Model the Right Kind of Authenticity – Be humble when you make mistakes 

The reality is that we make mistakes as parents. Edric and I have hurt our kids and been bad examples at certain points, and our kids know that we have our weaknesses. But one thing that we have learned is that the best remedy is to humbly ask for their forgiveness and commit to change when we mess up.

 Last year Edric and I had a speaking engagement in Baguio on parenting young kids. On the way, we had an issue. One of our kids passed gas in the car and the smell was terrible. Edric was preparing his message and the smell bothered him so much he asked, “Who passed gas?”

A hand went up in the backseat and someone said, “I’m sorry dad, I did.”

Since Edric is sensitive to smells, he felt annoyed, and declared an ultimatum, “Kids, no one is allowed to pass gas in the car EVER.”

When I heard him say this, I felt annoyed. How can this ridiculous, exasperating rule be imposed on young children? We have a three year old!

So, my mistake was I disrespectfully challenged Edric in front of the kids, “So you mean to tell me you never pass gas in the car, hon?”

The kids were listening to us go back and forth as we dragged the verbal arguing on. Finally, we got to the venue and I didn’t want to speak about parenting. I felt like we were parenting failures at that moment.

God convicted me to apologize for my disrespect to Edric and the kids which I did. As for Edric, I just prayed that God would speak to him, especially since one of our sons whispered to my ear, “It’s kind of hypocritical of dad to tell us not to pass gas.”

I replied in faith, “I’m sure your dad will talk to you and you can share this with him.”

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Edric did. He too was convicted about what happened in the car and he apologized to me, to the kids, to everyone. Peace and joy were restored and Edric and I could truthfully stand in front of the audience with our kids sitting in the back.

Since we are imperfect parents, we will make mistakes, but the good news is that the willingness to say sorry and ask for forgiveness keeps our children’s hearts soft. 

James 5:16 reminds us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

To encourage the parents out there, God is committed to helping us fulfill our role. He will continue to change us and mold us into the persons He wants us to be. However, we have to be willing to repent and change when we make mistakes. 

I want to end by sharing what Edric and I learned from an Easter family breakthrough retreat. Every parent has to be able to ask their children, “How have I hurt you? How can I improve? And will you forgive me for…”

We can try our best to be a model of Christlikeness but if we fail, these questions will keep our kids from developing bitterness and hard hearts towards us and towards following God.

Model the Right Roles 

This part was written by my fourteen year old, Elijah: 

Around a year ago, right before my thirteenth birthday, my Dad took me to climb Mt. Apo, as sort of a “rite-of-passage” ritual into manhood. He modeled how to be a man. Being very responsible and prepared, Dad created a checklist of things we needed to bring, and pitched a tent in our yard so we could practice for the real thing (it was actually much harder than the real thing, being in our rocky yard), then finally took out our little burner and grilled some food out in our yard, too. But we still ate some of the dinner cooked by Mom. Because we learned from our mistakes, we were able to camp more comfortably on the actual mountain. 

At one point during our climb to Mt. Apo, my Dad was so exhausted that he told me, “I’ll probably climb back down and call a helicopter to pick me up.”

However, he kept pushing and made it to the summit. He even shared the gospel with a few people at the top. 

During my time with him on the mountain he showed me how to live with very little and be content with it. Although it was difficult, we had a lot of fun. Dad pushing himself made me want to push myself too. I reached the top second! (Of course, our guide got there first.)

Another way my dad teaches me to be a man is through speaking engagements he brings me on, showing me what he does and exposing me to all kinds of people. I learn how a man should conduct himself, how one can communicate effectively, and how to have God-confidence. In his talks, he tries to insert the Gospel as much as spossible, no matter what he is speaking about. This assures me that I, too, can be confident to put verses in my sharing and not be afraid to share God’s word. 

Model the Right Priorities

Significantly, one of the most recent things Dad has taught me is the value of priorities. Through the years, Dad has showed me how to give up good things to make way for great things. 

Back in September 2015, my Dad got an offer to be an anchor for Mornings@ANC, a morning news show. He told us that he was so excited about the opportunity because it was a major show which paid good money. We also thought that it would be great as a platform for God. So, my Dad took the job after praying about it and getting advice from others. 

Initially, it was fun to have him come home after the show to catch us at breakfast and share all the goodies and freebies he would get. And my Dad seemed to enjoy it as he would share stories with my Mom. 

However, his schedule was crazy. You see, he had to wake up at 3:30am to be at the studio by 4:30am. To wake up at this time, he had to sleep by around 7:30pm. But this was just a show on top of his other work. So when he got home from the Morning Show, we would catch him for breakfast briefly, then he would leave for work and come home just in time for dinner then head off early to bed.

To be honest, after a few months of this, I felt that Dad wasn’t spending enough time with me anymore, and I am a time person. I hardly got to talk with Dad and I didn’t see him a lot because of his difficult schedule. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I missed him. So one day, I told my Mom how I felt. 

“I feel like Dad has been out too often. His show is taking him away from us.” While I was talking, my eyes started to perspire (because men don’t cry; their eyes only perspire). 

Apparently, I was not the only one feeling this way as my brother Edan also shared the same thing to my Mom. Also with eyes tearing. 

Because of this, Mom told Dad about it privately. That very same night, Dad spoke to my brother and me. He started the conversation by asking us, “How can I improve?” 

Edan and I told him that he was way too busy, and that we missed him. Since I was getting emotional, I stood up for a bit and as I walked away to compose myself, I said to my Dad, “There are more important things in life than money. I will pray for you Dad.” 

My Dad then gathered us together and embraced us tightly and looked at us with a smile, and said he would do something about it.

You know what? A few days later my Dad called us to gather around him as a family, saying he had something to share. He then told us that he had resigned from the show! I know it was hard for him because I saw sadness in his eyes. After all, he was turning down such a good opportunity and he would lose income. 

When I saw this, I felt like I wanted to take back what I said. But instead, I ended up saying, “Thank you for choosing to be with us.” Then I hugged him tightly. 

My dad started to make lots of time for us. We got to spend a lot more time together. So when he didn’t win an award he was nominated for called the Oustanding Young Man award and he felt discouraged, I told him, “You don’t need that award dad. You are the most oustanding man to me.”  

Inspired by his example, I try my best to prioritize too. One way is by reading my Bible and praying first thing in the morning, which should be my greatest priority. After that, I try my best to get my responsibilities done like practicing violin and completing homeschool work. 

One of the last things I am learning about modeling is that it is not just from my parents to us children, but also from us to our siblings. For instance, I have noticed that my siblings copy me when I read my Bible and practice instruments in the morning. Even Catalina, my three-year-old sister, who cannot read, will pick up her picture Bible and pretend to read.

To be honest, I don’t always model the right things—I don’t always read my Bible like this and I don’t always prioritize my responsibilities. Sometimes, I lose my temper, get impatient, and fight with my siblings. When this happens, I realize that I need to ask for forgiveness and try to improve. That’s something I see my parents do when they too make mistakes and it encourages me to do the same.

Ultimately, their goal and my goal is to copy Christ—he is the perfect model. So please pray Please that I will copy Christ more and more, through the years, and that when I fail, I will be humble and willing to improve. Please pray the same for my parents, that they will be humble and ask for forgiveness when they mess up. I’m sure they would appreciate it. God bless you all!


 

 

I Trust You

Since my two older sons don’t need me to micromanage them, I have shifted my parenting style to give them room to exercise personal discretion. Instead of dictating their schedules or giving them a suggestion when they ask me, “What should I do?” or, “Can I do..”, I now say, “You decide. I trust you.” 

Those three words, “I trust you,” communicate my confidence in their capacity to make good choices. Having spent so many years teaching them the difference between right and wrong, it’s time they take ownership of their choices and assume responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. 

Interestingly, this “I trust you” statement actually makes them more conscientious about choosing wisely. 

Edan came up to me the other day and shared, “Mom, you know, when you say you trust me it actually makes me want to be very careful because I don’t want to break your trust.” 

I told him, “That’s a good thing.”

After all, he is old enough to know what is beneficial and what is harmful to him. For instance, recently he asked me if all the kids (himself included) could use the gadgets while Edric and I were out of the house. Our children know our rules and standards for gadget-use but we don’t hover over them every time they are on one to make sure they are following these. 

Edric and I have had many talks with our children about the dangers of media and guarding their eyes from pornography. We have talked to them about sex in the context of marriage and why it’s a beautiful thing. So they know what to avoid and run away from. 

Even though I want to amp up the controls to ensure that my kids never look upon any worthless thing online, it’s not possible to regulate everything my older sons do. Edric perspective on the matter is a better one. He asserts, “We cannot fully protect our children from pornography but we can prepare them.”

Between the two of us, I probably err on legalism more than he does, so this is a great reminder for me. I don’t want our kids to feel like following God is about external behavior. What matters is their hearts, realizing that God’s design and His will for them leads to fullness of life, and that they are accountable to Him for their actions. Daddy and mommy won’t always be watching. 

Our role as parents is to “train up our children in the way they should go” as Proverbs 22:6 commands so that “when they are older, they will not depart from it.” Personally, I believe that the ages of 1 to 12 require intensive teaching and training. These years are the conviction-building stage– when our children need us to pour into their hearts the word of God, to emphasize the truths that ought to direct their thinking and decision-making. It’s also in this stage when we need to warn them about the pitfalls of life– conflicting world views, sexual immorality, addictions, materialism — and how to choose the right friends and a future life partner. During this season it’s important for us to look for evidence that they love God and understand what it means to have a personal relationship with Him. 

If we have been intentional in their younger years, then we can relax in the area of micromanaging their decisions. In fact, we should avoid doing this. (The discipleship and availability, however, don’t have to end.)

My parents were very relaxed. Neither of them waited for my siblings and I to come home at night when we asked to go out with friends. They slept peacefully, trusting that we recognized we were accountable to God. They also rested in the Lord, knowing that our lives were in His hands. This doesn’t mean they were careless and uninvolved. In fact, they spent so much time being intentional about training and teaching us to make wise decisions that when we were “teenagers,” they let us know that we had their trust. 

In the meantime, they encouraged open communication, prayed for us consistently, and continued to disciple us and affirm God’s truth in our lives. Their style simply changed with consideration for our capacity to make our own choices. They respected us in this sense, and my siblings and I desired to please them and obey them. 

I have shared that of all my siblings, I learned about wrong choices the hard way. However, I came back to the principles that my parents taught me as a child. These truths hooked me back to the path I needed to be on and perpetually gnawed at my conscience when I ignored them. And like Edan told me recently, I wanted to preserve my parent’s trust in me, just as he wants to preserve my trust in him. 

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Proverbs‬ ‭1:8-10‬ ‭

This past year, I struggled with understanding my changing role in the lives of my older sons. I recall my father-in-law taking me aside to tell me very kindly that I had to avoid babying them, that it wouldn’t be healthy for their manhood. He sought to prepare my heart for the necessary shift in my role as mother to sons who were growing past the childhood stage. He emphasized that Edric should be taking over as far as mentoring them on how to think, act like, and be men. It’s a blessing that Edric has gladly and wholeheartedly been present to do this. 

As for me, I am taking the “I trust you” approach which seems to be working so far, and only because our older sons value my (our) trust and know that obedience brings blessing. I trust them because they have a relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit will convict them when they go astray. My confidence is in the work of Christ in their lives…

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭

WHO AM I?

Although I grew up in a home where my parents affirmed me and taught me what it means to have God-confidence, I wrestled with deep-seated insecurity.

As a third-culture kid who was half-American and half-Chinese but living in the Philippines, I didn’t quite feel like I fit in, racially speaking, anywhere. I was too Asian looking to be called American, and I was too foreign looking to be called Filipino. A street kid once yelled into our car window, “Pekeng kano (fake American)!”, and  it actually troubled me.

When I got older, I entertained thoughts such as, Dad is prouder of my siblings more than he is of me because they are smarter, more accomplished, and less “sinful.” Although my parents always assured each one of us that we were equally loved, I compared myself to my brothers and sisters.

Since childhood I also struggled with body insecurities, which plague me to this very day. Anytime I weigh myself and see that I’m more than 118 pounds, I panic and feel like I’m fat and should punish myself by eating less or exercising. Since I have never been completely happy with how my body looks, I sometimes think of a hundred things I wish I could change.

Furthermore, I continue to have skin that is prone to break outs, which began in my teens, and blemishes tend to steal my peace as well. (How ironic that I became an endorser for Cetaphil! That’s God’s grace. Their products have helped me a lot.)

Edric, on the other hand, has smaller pores than I do. He doesn’t have skin problems which sometimes makes me so envious. About ten years ago he had a mole on his face that kept growing and I was really concerned about it, so I suggested that he get it checked. Since he wasn’t the kind of guy who fussed over his skin, he ignored it. Miraculously, the mole fell off! No scar. Nothing. Like the mole was never there. I thought, Wow, that’s not fair. Lord, how come he’s the guy in our marriage and he has the nicer skin. Why not me?!

One of the more serious symptoms of my insecurity was seeking the approval of people. For example, as an eight year old child, I wanted all my classmates to like me so I lied about having a variety of animals in our house. I made it sound like we had a zoo! Unfortunately this bloated narrative prevented me from inviting my classmates over because no such zoo existed in our home. Thank God my parents homeschooled me the year after so I never had to show proof of this zoo!

When it came to friends, I got into drinking just to feel like I belonged. While drinking isn’t wrong per se, it was my motivations for doing it. One year I went on a long trip to Europe with some of my girl friends and almost every night we would go to clubs. Though wildly fun, I never felt at peace each morning after.

At one point, we were hanging out with all kinds of guys and the guys would flirt with us, and one of the guys asked if he could take me home to his place. I knew what this meant, and I told him, “No, I’m not interested.” 

After rejecting his proposal, he made me feel like a loser for turning him down. This was one of the moments that got me thinking, If I continue down this path, if I do things to earn people’s favor because I want them to think I’m cool or fun then I’m going to destroy my life. Furthermore, and most importantly, I called myself a Christian, yet I didn’t honor Christ with my life. Plus, behind the exterior of my good girl façade, I knew there was something spiritually wrong with me.

Because I was always looking for affirmation, this carried over into the way I related with guys. I liked the attention I received from guys. It made me feel important and special, and I attached my self-worth to this.

So in high school I dated a guy who was popular, athletic, intelligent, and funny, even if my parents discouraged me from doing so. Our relationship became very physical. I let him manipulate me emotionally. If I wasn’t physical with him, he would ignore me, give me a hard time, or make me feel guilty, like I was a bad person. I allowed myself be treated this way for at least two years. After we broke up, he visited from the U.S. a couple of times and our encounters would turn physical again.

Ultimately, it was my choice to do the things I did because I desired my boyfriend’s approval more than obeying God. So I compromised to keep him interested in me, even if it was a very unhealthy relationship.

I struggled with purity again when I got into my second serious relationship. This time it was with Edric in college. However, this time I wasn’t forced into it. I willingly committed immorality and at times, initiated it. Although Edric and I didn’t have actual intercourse, the Holy Spirit kept convicting us of our sin. Both of us knew we weren’t pleasing God. 

Due to the series of unwise and sinful choices I made, I felt like a spiritually broken person after my college years. The disconnect between my private life and whom I claimed to be, bred fear and robbed me of peace. I didn’t want my parents, family, or friends to know my secret sins, so I hid for many years, by avoiding conversations about my relationships, or I lied to preserve my image. But this charade grew tiring, even for Edric. We could no longer stomach the spiritual fatigue of a sin-confess-sin-confess lifestyle. In order to honor God and seek after His will for us, we finally broke off our relationship two years into it.

When a friend of our family approached my mom and said, “I had a dream about your kids, all of them had a candle, except for Joy,” I secretly panicked. Deep down I knew that having NO candle basically meant that I had not been a light for Christ. So I wanted to change, but I felt like such a failure. 

Still battling this demon of insecurity, another unhealthy perspective began to surface in my life – that I was the worst of the “Tan-Chi” kids. My siblings were all better than me. I would never be as good as they were. They qualified as blessed but not me. Once again, it was all about comparing myself to others. So, I had to come to a point in my life where I saw myself as God saw me, not as I saw myself in comparison with others, or how I felt others saw me.

First, I was a sinner. There was nothing good in me apart from Him. But He loved me and died for me. Even if I had made the mistakes I had as a professed follower of Christ, even if I had been so displeasing to Him, He would love me still and He would forgive me if I truly repented. So my sense of security wasn’t in what I could do to perform or earn back God’s love, God’s grace. It was in what Jesus had done for me. I felt like the prodigal coming back to Him. But dealing with my wrong thinking was a process for me.

Second, I had to remember that I was a child of God, therefore my purpose was to represent Him, glorify Him, and lead others to Him. After Edric and I broke up, I recognized how directionless my my life was. My choices revolved around what made me feel good about myself, what made me feel significant or important. 

Therefore, it was time to make my own decision to follow God, not based on my family’s convictions, but my own. I had to accept God’s plan and purpose for my life– whom He created me to be and what He created me for. This conviction had to be birthed out of a true understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Although I had been raised in a Christian home, did I really believe that following Christ was the best life to live? Did I really believe that I was set apart as 1 Peter 2:9 says? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God for He called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

Today, I still struggle with my insecurities.  At the root of it is pride, being self-focused. I once told someone, I think the struggles that we have as children, the weaknesses and character flaws that we dealt with when we were kids will continue to be the things we wrestle with even into our adulthood. Therefore, we have to remain dependent on the Holy Spirit to be victorious until God calls us home.

More recently, when I married my husband, Edric, my insecurities revolved around money. I knew that we weren’t starting off with a lot of money. As a starry-eyed bride caught up in the romance of our relationship, I wasn’t that worried. Maybe we wouldn’t be rich but I was certain we would have enough. 

Well, reality set in within the first year of our marriage. It wasn’t easy having just enough. Admittedly, coming from a family with means felt like a big contrast to what we had. Enough didn’t quite feel enough. I couldn’t travel. I had to stick to a tight budget. Even if I didn’t grow up seeing my parents spend on luxury goods because that wasn’t a value of theirs, we lived very comfortably because my dad was a successful businessman.

When I compared my state in life to my siblings and parents, jealousy and disappointment would settle in. Not having a lot of money actually made me feel insecure once again. 

God had to remind me repeatedly, I am your provider. I will take care of you and Edric, your family. You focus on honoring me and obeying me. 

After nearly sixteen years of marriage, I have seen his faithfulness in the area of provision.

Yet it’s no surprise that to this very day, I have to combat insecurity. Here are some practical measures that help me to embrace my identity in Christ and focus on living for Him:

Confess my struggle. When comparing, jealousy, approval-seeking, and fear of people begin to take root in my heart, I have to weed these out by coming before the Lord and admitting my weakness and negative thinking. Then I ask for His forgiveness, for my mind to be renewed. 

“if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:21-24‬ ‭

Detox from social media and other media. I intentionally avoid looking at things that fill my heart with discontent, that put in my heart an appetite for pursuits that aren’t aligned with God’s will for me. This past Holy Week, I took a break from checking social media. How liberating it was to leave my Instagram and Facebook accounts alone! 

Be grateful. “Thank you, Lord, for who I am, whom you made me to be, for the life you have given to me, and for empowering me to do the things you want me to.”

Someone once told me, “God has given you everything you need to do what He wants you to.”

I’ve never forgotten that statement. The family I was born in to, my genetics, racial background, appearance, resources, the talents and abilities that God has given me, as well as my inabilities, are everything I need to fulfill His calling and plan for my life. Most important of all, I have the Holy Spirit to empower me. As Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 

Look to the needs of those around me, instead of focusing on myself. How can I be a blessing to others? How can I be a messenger of the gospel? How can I point people to Christ?

My mom has often encouraged me, “When you are with others, think of how you can bless them, how you can reach out to them.” 

It’s a great cure for self-centeredness! 

Evaluate my choices and motives by asking the questions, Am I doing this for God’s glory or for my own glory? Is there anything I am doing that is dishonoring to God’s name?

For example, whenever I read negative comments from readers that target me personally, I have to think through how I will respond because the tendency is to react and be defensive. Therefore I have to mentally review…Why am I doing what am I doing? Whom am I trying to draw attention to?

When I started this blog, my desire was to point people to Christ. So when people make an obvious attack on my biblical worldview, then I try not to take it personally.  However, if it is an accusation that addresses a character issue I need to fix, then I have to apologize and change.

It’s very easy to be cruel and vengeful on social media or on the Internet, so I remind myself that I represent Christ. Everything I do online and offline has to glorify Him. My persona online has to be consistent with my identity in Christ. Whatever platform I use and whatever platform God has given to me, the intention must be to glorify God.

Maybe you grew up in a good Christian home like I did. You were exposed to ministry experiences where you saw your parents wholeheartedly serve God. Or maybe you witnessed hypocrisy, with your parents preaching and teaching one thing and modeling the opposite at home.

Whichever category you fall under, I hope you will understand that you and I can’t make our choice to follow God dependent on our parents’ faith. Their passion for the Lord isn’t a genetically inherited trait. And their lack of passion isn’t an excuse for us to deny who we are and what we were made for. Each one of us has to ask the question, “Who am I?”

Colossians 1:16 tells us, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.”‭‭‭

Every one of us was created by God and for Him. So it boils down to a personal decision – Will I embrace the identity that God made me to have? And will this identity define how I think, speak, and act? Or will I continue trying to find my identity apart from God? 

As for those of you who are parents like me, let’s not give up praying for our kids and affirming who they are in Christ. Although our children are accountable to God to make their personal faith decisions, we are also accountable to do our part to raise our children to know, love, serve, and obey God. 

My parents loved me unconditionally and walked along side me during my wayward years. They continued to pour into my heart and mind spiritual truth. Yet I am convinced that it was their faithful praying that saved me from the course I was on. By God’s grace, their prayers worked, too! There is hope in Christ! 

I Threw a Pencil, Ripped a Page, and Slammed the Door

So today I actually lost it, like really lost it as I was teaching math to my daughter, Tiana. She couldn’t grasp regrouping for addition, and even with the use of manipulatives and lots of reviewing to help her get it, our lesson turned into a massive fail because of my outburst. 

First, I threw a pencil at the window. Every one of my kids saw this. That was after lesson # 1 with Tiana. I apologized and replaced the pencil, mumbling some excuse to justify my annoyance.
We even prayed together and asked for the Lord to fill all of us. I confessed my anger to my kids aloud and asked for their forgiveness. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t really sorry. I probably should have abandoned the work Tiana had to do for about an hour to get a grip of my emotions. But I persisted, demanding that she finish the two pages of math work assigned for the day. Therefore the worst was yet to come.

By the time we got to the practice bit of the lesson, Tiana blanked out and forgot what to do… AGAIN. By this time, she most likely sensed my irritation growing by the way I sighed loudly and convoluted my face, like I was incredulous that something so simple could be so difficult for her. So when the mounting pressure of anger reached its climax, I pressed hard with her pencil and circled one of the numbers I wanted her to pay attention to…like twenty times! Then I stood up, absolutely peeved, grabbed her book in my hands and ripped the page we were supposed to work on next, yelled out in exasperation, and stormed out of the homeschool room. When I got to my bedroom I intentionally, as well as forcefully, slammed my bedroom door to emphasize how mad I was.

Throwing myself onto my bed, I cried out, “I can’t do this, Lord! I have had it! I give up! I can’t homeschool her! I don’t know what to do!”

After some minutes of my face plastered against my pillow, sobbing over my failure, and my body lying prostrate on the bed, reality jolted me out of my delirium. I knew that I had to get back to the kids. Hello! I was their teacher! I couldn’t leave them in our “classroom” and abandon my responsibilities. More importantly, they needed to hear an apology from me. Another one. A real one. I behaved like an emotionally immature adult and without a doubt, deeply wounded them. This moment needed repairing.

So I collected myself, and walked back to the homeschool room. Tiana was curled up beside Catalina, who broke the silence. “Mommy, will you forgive Tiana?” 

Forgive Tiana?! She had it all mixed up.

“Catalina, mommy was the wrong one. Will you forgive me?” 

I had to ask for forgiveness from all of them, especially when Tiana tearfully explained, “Mom, I-I-I felt bad because you were frustrated and ran to your room. I cried.”

Pulling her to myself, unable to give any sort of defense for my actions, I hugged and kissed her tightly. 

“I was so wrong, Tiana. Will you please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was a bad example.” 

Tiana nodded kindly and managed to smile. I didn’t deserve that smile. It was generous, forgiving, trusting. I know she meant it. 
We resumed with extra math practice, but I was guilt-ridden. The rest of the morning, I didn’t want to homeschool.

At some point, the kids, bless their hearts, sought to assist me. They took over the base ten rods and blocks and proceeded to explain the concept of adding to Tiana, encouraging her and patiently going over each problem she had to solve. 

I grabbed my phone to call Edric. He listened as I quietly begged, “Please come home early today. I need you. I lost it.” 

He knew what I meant and chuckled. This wasn’t the first time. I have marched into his study room in the past ranting in exasperation about how hard it is to teach math to Tiana. 

“Okay,” He replied reassuringly, promising to head home as soon as he could. 

I felt him smiling at the other end of the phone. He didn’t mean to belittle my emotions. But in the midst of a major decision he needed to make about the business today, my issue probably seemed almost cute to him. 

Yet it wasn’t. There wasn’t anything cute about my outburst.

Truthfully, I hated myself this morning. I hated homeschooling. I hated Tiana’s math book and the inconvenience of having to teach something over and over again in futility.  I felt like I was a total failure as a mom and wondered if homeschooling is worth it. 

Why do I have to agonize over teaching when I can send my kids to school and let their education be an institution’s problem…not mine?

In fact, moments after I spoke to Edric on the phone, I messaged him, proposing that I should send Tiana to school so that I can avoid getting angry because I don’t want to hurt her emotionally. I have never suggested this about any of my kids. Sure, I have felt irritated at each one of my children for various reasons, but I have never felt such an intense frustration to the point that I want to throw objects, bang my head against the wall, jump up and down, break a pencil, tear a book in half, or scream at the top of my lungs just to let all the internal pressure out! It’s like those moments in the movies when a character is seated across another person, staring at them expressionlessly, seemingly calm on the outside, but then you get to peer inside the character’s mind and see them role-playing all kinds of violent scenes! 

The Bible says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

My anger didn’t inspire Tiana to try harder. It just made her feel insecure and incapable. Letting out all that pent up anger didn’t make me feel the relief I wanted to feel, either. And now the kids have a bad memory about mommy that they may well remember into their adulthood. 

In fact, Edan remarked, “Now, you have two things you’ve done in anger that we will remember.” (He was referring to one other incident some years ago when I threw a box of math manipulatives onto the floor, which terrified all of them.)

Edan also admitted as the hour was approaching noon, “Mom, when you are not happy, none of us feel happy.” 

Titus said, “Mom, I prayed for you, and I cried a little when you got mad.” 

Elijah added, “I was actually scared. And I was sad, and I knew you had a problem.”

When I got the chance to speak with Edric over dinner, he listened very understandingly to my narrative, but his take on the matter was this, “This is God’s way of humbling you. This is an opportunity to be dependent on Him.”

He’s right. Home schooling is hard work. It is miserably difficult sometimes, and mostly because parenting and homeschooling are interconnected and you have to be intentional about the former to be good at the latter. Home schooling magnifies your flaws and makes you realize how much you need the Lord, that you can never do it well for each child, through every season and for all the years that you do it apart from Him. The best homeschooling days are the ones when I remember this. The worst ones, like today, are the ones when I try to force my kids to learn and push them for the wrong reasons, mostly selfish ones.  

However, I will end by talking about how beautiful God’s grace is. Tiana returned to her cheerful self the rest of the day, almost like she forgot what happened. I’m sure she didn’t, she hasn’t, but I praise God for the opportunity to repair my mistake later on in the day. This is one of the reasons why home schooling has made such a positive difference in our family – the kids and I have so much time together, to build and rebuild our relationship. I had the rest of the day to hug, kiss, and affirm Tiana. By the evening, we prayed together and she fell asleep peacefully, knowing she was loved and treasured by me.

As for my four other kids (especially my two older ones), they were strangely comforted by my display of weakness. After I asked for forgiveness, one of them confessed, “You know, mom, I also feel mad at times and I can relate with how you felt.”

In other words, we get it, mom, none of us are perfect, we struggle with the same things.

Edric also came to my rescue (and Tiana’s), offering to help teach Tiana addition and subtraction. He knows how to add the element of fun in his instruction and not take the obstacles too seriously. Yeah!

I have to believe that God can still use a bad incident like this and use it for good in our homeschool journey. I’m ashamed about what happened, but I thought to share it as a reminder to myself that home schooling on my own power isn’t enough. On a practical level, I also need to walk away, maybe get a glass of water, say a quick prayer, breathe in deeply, or hum a happy tune when I feel the frustration rising in me so I don’t get to the point where I lose it on my kids. 

Is it just me? Can you all relate somehow? 
 

A Simple Family Habit That Can Make a Big Difference

Growing up, it was part of my family’s culture to ask, “How can I improve?” to one another. My parents encouraged open communication and honesty. To this day, family get-togethers include a time of accountability and sharing, where we can talk about our marriages, our parenting, our struggles and triumphs. As a result, my parents, my siblings and I, as well as our spouses and kids remain close to one another. We are each other’s confidants and friends. It may not always be easy to swallow each other’s correction and suggestions on how to improve, but we know that words are exchanged and offered in love and with the best intentions. 

I am so glad that Edric has embraced this same culture in our home. In fact, he is a good example to me of humility (something I continually need to improve on). When he messes up and makes mistakes as a husband or father, he will ask for forgiveness and repair whatever relational damage was inflicted by his wrongs. 

Lately, his schedule has been packed with meetings and activities. The busy-ness and stress have made him more susceptible to impatience. He has changed so much in this area that these moments of losing his cool have become infrequent. However, a few days ago, during a conversation with Elijah, our oldest son, Edric cut him off and didn’t let him explain himself. They were having a discussion over semantics. Elijah tried to make his point and give his rebuttal, but Edric told him to stop talking. This silenced Elijah who quietly conceded to Edric’s point in the discussion. 

Some days after I invited Elijah to an afternoon run. As we jogged over and around the hilly roads of our community, I thought to ask him, “How can I improve?” 

Elijah welcomes these invitations to speak about what’s on his heart. Since he is fourteen, he’s also very vocal. He told me I needed to be more consistent about schedules. True, true, true. Our recent travels threw off our routines which Elijah didn’t appreciate. (He likes predictability.)
After apologizing to Elijah, he opened up to me about how he felt his dad (Edric) could improve. I hadn’t asked him this, but he volunteered this information anyway. 

“Dad needs to listen to me more. I feel like I can’t always express myself, like he cuts me off.” 

I knew this statement was in reference to their recent conversation which left Elijah feeling hurt and impotent. As I quietly listened, I also thought through how I would bring up this issue to Edric later. 

When an opportunity presented itself (meaning Edric was in a relaxed mood and not stressed out about work), I pulled him aside and mentioned what Elijah expressed to me about him.

Edric immediately internalized what I shared. He wasn’t defensive. “Okay, I will talk to him.” 

As predicted, Edric found a moment during one breakfast to ask for Elijah’s forgiveness in front of our other kids. 

He looked Elijah in the eye, saying something like this, “Mom told me that you felt hurt. She said you feel like I cut you off, like the other day.” 

Elijah nodded and Edric followed up with, “Will you forgive me?” 

Elijah replied, “Of course, dad.” 

Breakfast continued pleasantly for everyone as the dialogue shifted to other matters. But I know that Edric’s willingness to change and improve impacted the heart of Elijah and our other kids in a very positive way. They have witnessed this sort of exchange before and it matters to them that the “loop is closed” on an issue affecting one or more of us. 

Furthermore, of all the people in our home, it is Edric’s example that imprints upon our kids what values are important to our family, what principles they too will live by. I am not discrediting my own participation in the formation of my kids’ sense of right and wrong. I too have a responsibility to model and teach my kids Christ-likeness. However, I do believe that the humility of a father is like a special key that unlocks the hearts of children. There’s something about a father, the head, the leader, the respected one, stepping down from his honored position to admit fault and weakness that thaws and softens a child’s cold and hardened heart. 

Of course, this doesn’t excuse us, as moms, from having to do the same thing!

Like any habit, it takes a while to get used to asking one another how we can improve. It may feel awkward at first. I remember one of the first times Edric and I asked each other how we can improve during a date night and the romantic event turned sour by the end. Defensively, I countered Edric’s statements about how I needed to change with excuses instead of just saying, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

So the question, “how can I improve?” ought to be followed by a sincere apology when it is answered. Otherwise, it won’t work. The moment will turn into a massive fail. 

Let me conclude by giving some reasons why we should ask the question, how can I improve?:

1. If our relationship with our family members is already in the danger zone, then this could be an opportunity to rescue it. Because a move like this would appear so unprecedented and unexpected, it could be the sort of jolt that awakens hope. 

2. If we are convinced that we have nothing to improve on, then we hazard nothing by daring to ask the question, right? 

3. But, hey, the chance are, our kids are well-aware of our flaws. We can’t fool them! They will definitely have something to say about how we can improve that will be honest and beneficial to our character growth. 

4. Our children long to feel treasured by us and anything that we do to threaten this need wounds them deeply. One of the best ways to communicate that we care about this need is to ask how we can be better parents, how we can act and speak in ways that tell them they are special to us. When our kids recognize that we are intentional about pursuing a loving and close relationship with them, they will be inspired to reciprocate. 

5. Transparency and openness in the home has to begin with us, as parents. We can’t expect our children to embrace open communication if they don’t see the sincerity in us first. We can’t expect them to humble themselves if we don’t do so.

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke‬ ‭22:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of us have made mistakes as parents, but the good news is, it’s never too late to initiate a culture that ushers in healthy communication, healing, and restoration. Our children want to forgive us, they want to have better relationships us, but many times we don’t give them the opportunity to do these things. Maybe it’s because we are prideful, oblivious, or busy. Perhaps we are wounded oersons ourselves and haven’t experienced God’s grace to forgive our own parents or other family members who have injured us emotionally. Therefore, we don’t know how to ask the question or how to say sorry. 

Here’s a word of encouragement: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is also time to break the cycle. We cannot alter events of the past but we can be catalysts for positive change in our own families, something that is within our control. And this can begin with a very simple habit, that of asking, “How can I improve?” 

Let’s try doing this once a week, working on the areas of change that are pointed out to us, and then let’s see how profoundly it affects the relationships and climates of our families. 

Helping Kids Work Through Their Emotions

On the day I took my second son, Edan, to renew his passport, the event turned into a mom and son bonding time. Troubled by an incident with his friends the night before, Edan revealed to me that there was something he wanted to divulge, something that deeply bothered him. The tears came first before he blurted out, in between sobbing, that his friends made fun of him. 

Edan, being the emotional onion that he is, took about five minutes to actually speak about his pain. I had to wait on his silence to drag on until I finally commanded him to obey and tell me what was wrong. After all, he initiated bringing up the issue in the first place so this meant he actually planned to tell me about it.

So he did. He proceeded to explain that his friends created a storyline that highlighted him as one of the main characters. In the story, as narrated by his friends, Edan insisted that they give him one hundred hotdogs to eat as payment for opening the door of a room they wanted to enter. The hotdogs made him fat and everyone cackled at the image this fictional tale conjured. Edan said he joined in the laughter but deep inside he harbored hurt and resentment. For a good part of the evening, he remained withdrawn, which was very unusual for him as an outgoing person.

I listened to his woeful tale, trying to understand where he was coming from. As I probed further, Edan confessed to making fun of his friends, too. He admitted that creating stories with friends as characters in them was originally his idea. Some weeks ago he told these stories in a manner that embarrassed his friends. 

Once I had all the facts, I helped him process what he went through:

First, when people say things that aren’t true, we don’t have to let their statements or claims wound us. Instead, we need to remember our worth in Christ. He loves us and values us so that when others don’t, we can take comfort in the security that our relationship with Him provides. In fact, I encouraged him to laugh along, playing their game. Next time, he can add to the comedy and say, “How come you only made me eat one hundred hotdogs? Why not, one thousand?” The point is to be able to laugh at oneself without taking it personally.

If, however, people say things that are true, then we ought to humble ourselves and acknowledge the reality that change is necessary, and ask for forgiveness when we have been the offensive persons.

Since Edan is a natural leader, I also had to correct his example.

“Edan, God made you a leader. People follow you, look up to you, and want your favor. This is a big responsibility. Therefore, you need to always think through your motivations. Are your choices glorifying God?” 

I added, “When you made fun of your friends, that wasn’t kind or glorifying to God, and your friends copied your example.” 

Edan chewed on this and acknowledged that he hadn’t been a good example. He smiled sheepishly as he realized that the offense began with him.

Afterwards, I told him about how we can respond with graciousness when people hurt us. I talked about my own encounters with people who don’t like me because of my convictions and what I stand for.

Some months ago, a lady who was very irate with me, accused me of projecting an image of perfection to my readers, stabbed at my parenting efforts, and ridiculed my children. She made some bold remarks that attacked my character and motivations, and wrote these as a long comment after one of my posts, generously expressing her disdain towards me.

Since I didn’t see the comment right away, it wasn’t till weeks later that I discovered it and saw a thread of replies by other readers who defended me. (To those of you who did so, thank you. I was so touched by your desire to come to my rescue.)

Here were my options:

1. Verbally argue and defend myself (very tempting!)

2. Ignore the person (easy to do) 

3. Apply graciousness (hardest to do)

God convicted me to go with number three. However, I still had to carefully filter through my motives before crafting a response.

I told Edan that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond with grace to persons who use their tongues or written word to accuse, berate, and make fun of us. He listened intently, noting the parallel to what happened to him. 

“So what did you say, mom?”

Before summarizing the gist of my reply to this woman, I shared with Edan how I struggled with vengefulness, which he could relate with. However, I had to remember that I don’t represent myself. Therefore my intentions and actions had to mirror Christ in me.

“The reason why it’s possible to be gracious to others,” I added, “is because God extended grace to us. When He sacrificed Himself for us, to pay for our sins, it was an act of grace, something we did not deserve. Therefore, we can do the same to people who don’t deserve grace from us.” 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

“Grace,” I explained, “goes beyond withholding and controlling our emotions, like when we are mad and try to control our tempers or refrain from speaking. It’s about choosing to love and bless persons who have hurt us because we want them to know Jesus, too. That’s what it means to give a gracious response when we are offended.”

Edan took a moment to digest this thought.

“So what did the person say, mom? After you wrote back?

He was so eager to know the conclusion of our dialogue.

Unfortunately the person didn’t comment back, even after I asked for her forgiveness for entries or things written by me that declared I was a perfect parent. This was never my intention. I also suggested that we meet face to face so we could get to know each other better and then she could form an accurate conclusion about my kids and me. And then I ended by telling her that I cared about her, that I didn’t think of her as an enemy.

Since she never got back to me, I explained to Edan that there may be occasions in our lives when we extend grace and it is not reciprocated or received well. This is beyond our control. What’s within our control is that we choose to respond correctly. 

After relating this experience to Edan’s incident with his friends, we reviewed our discussion:

We will encounter people in our lives who will say hurtful things. That’s a given, an avoidable reality. However, we can choose how we will respond, which is within our control. Most importantly, we represent Jesus Christ and His interests. So while it is normal to feel bad and discouraged as a result of people’s negative words or verbal bullying, we must process the instinct to be vengeful, harbor anger, or emotionally withdraw, remembering that our security is in Christ and that our goal is to glorify Him and connect people to Him.  


Emotions are a good gauge for the deeper issues of the heart. As a parent, I’m learning to listen to my kids’ feelings and avoid dismissing these as sinful or wrong (which can be my tendency.) However, I also need to teach my kids how to think through their emotions, the causes and the implications of entertaining feelings to the point where they forego making the right decisions or internalize wrong perspectives. 

Edan is eager to hang out with his friends once again. Whew. 

He decided not to take their teasing personally and he learned how to be a better friend and example to others. By the end of our mother and son date, he was all smiles, too! 

Here are some questions that may help our older kids (and us) process feelings in a healthy way:

How does this situation or person make me feel?

Why do I feel this way?

What need may this person have that caused him or her to do or say hurtful things? 

What is the most God-honoring response towards this situation or person?

How can I use this moment as an opportunity to lead this person to Christ?

What would exemplifying God’s grace look like at this moment?

 

Candid Moments of My Youngest

Catalina, my three year old, is one of those kids who is candid and honest. She is also strong and fearless in many ways. She certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind which can be a problem at times. My husband, Edric, and I are teaching her to be obedient and respectful, the latter being high on the list of character traits she needs to learn. 

During our trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi she said so many amusing things I just had to write them all down so I don’t forget them! 

Here are some of her unfiltered statements…

1. “I am going to tell your husband!” (She said this to Tiana when they were having a discussion in the car.) 


2. “I don’t want to play with that boy, he is ugly.” (About a curly haired boy in the playground who was actually very cute.) 

3. “Hey! That’s my seat!” (To an elderly woman who sat beside her on a two-seater wooden swing. We had to correct this, of course, and ask Catalina to apologize.) 

4. “My prume is hurting.” (What’s a prume? She points to her thumb. Sometimes she invents words…) 

5. “Don’t worry! Don’t be scared! I am here, Tiana!” (When Tiana seemed nervous about riding on on amusement park rides that Catalina was too small to ride on. She would shout this from the sidelines.)


6. “I will take care of you, Tiana.” (When Tiana didn’t want to go into the IKEA playplace without her brothers. And Catalina put her arm around her as she said this to assure her that she would be with her.)

7. “You! Stop crying! Stop it!” (She opens the door of the hotel room to shout at a child who was crying in another room. Good thing the hallway was empty and the door of that child’s room was closed so his or her parents didn’t see her!)

8. “Why is your stomach so big?” (To a kid standing behind her in line for face painting, accompanied by a poke to the kid’s belly.) 


9. “Please, stop it. Stop talking. You are so boring.” (To an announcement being made over the PA system of the plane.) 


10. “Okay, everyone, do freestyle!” (This was her own rendition of a wacky pose. I don’t know where she got it but she raised three fingers as she posed for the camera.)

11. “Siri, what is Elijah’s password?” (When she couldn’t turn on his IPad.) 

12. “Praise God! It’s not hard!” (About her poop, while pooping on a public toilet.)

I just love, love, love this stage of her life! Her size, her mind, her expressiveness. But she definitely needs training in character still, so Edric and I are working on this even as we appreciate her personality…

What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you! 


  

 

Extreme Patience Required (EPR)

I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time. 
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it! 

Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness. 

These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier. 

During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.” 

Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word. 

Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us. 

I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.

Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece. 

This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!! 

Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”

I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner. 

We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!) 

Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind. 

Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:

1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own. 

2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted. 

3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too. 

4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation. 

5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son. 

6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal. 

7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.

8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen. 

I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit. 

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭


 

God Loves Single Moms

After Edric and I give parenting talks, many single moms come up to us feeling discouraged and anxious because of our emphasis on the role of a father. They tend to fear that their children will not grow up with the support and mentoring they need from a dad. We often encourage them by saying that God is gracious and then give them practical tips on how to parent alone. However, our vantage point is still different and single parenting is best explained from the perspective of someone who is actually in a position to say what the challenges are and how to surmount them.


Last weekend, Edric and I were in Cebu with friends Mel and Cathy Po, where we had the privilege of speaking alongside actress, Jodi Sta. Maria to a large gathering of Ateneo parents. Jodi shared her journey as a single mother and she itemized these life lessons: 

Security – a child longs for security. It’s possible for a single parent to meet this need by being available and creating a home environment where a child knows that unconditional love and forgiveness abound.

Identity – a single mom’s identity has to be rooted in the Lord and she has to transfer this truth to her child/ren as well. God is father to the fatherless and husband to the husband-less. When a single mother understands how much God loves her, she doesn’t have to worry about how others label her or judge her. Her identity is hidden in Christ, therefore her joy and peace also come from her relationship with Him. These are not dependent on circumstances or others. 

Non-negotiable Date Time – Since single moms tend to get busy trying to provide financially for their child/children, it’s important to safeguard date nights with them. These are predictable moments in the week when children can look forward to bonding time with mom. 

God-centered Parenting – Pschologists, the media, and books will have all kinds of opinions about how single parents should teach, train, and raise their children. However, the best source is still God’s word. He is the author of parenting. Principles such as Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is older he will not depart from it, and Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and teach your children to do the same, are still applicable to solo parents and their kids. 

Love as Motivation – Children are inspired to change, to improve, to excel when they know with certainty that they are loved. Unconditional love is a powerful motivator. Not only should our children be assured that we love them no matter what, we also have to make choices for them that are based on unconditional love verses selfishness. Whether single parent or not, this is a real struggle. “Let all that you do be done in love.”‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:14‬ ‭

Educate Yourself – Every parent needs a doctorate degree in parenting. But no school exists for this sort of degree! So we have to attend biblical parenting seminars, read books, and surround ourselves with parents who have successfully raised their own children so we can learn from their mistakes and victories. Edric and I continue to grow in our parenting from getting together with other couples who are also committed to teaching and training their children. We exchange “best practices.” Single parents can do the same. 

Memories Last Forever – Invest in memories. Some of my fondest memories are of my childhood years, sitting around the dinner table as a family, exercising together, traveling, and vacations. These are forever imprinted in my heart and mind…as they will also be for kids of single parents who deposit fond memories into the emotional banks of their kids. 

Overcome the Circumstance as a Family – I would like to add that you can have a new “team” of people who will become your child’s family to provide the emotional and spiritual support you both need. No parent should be an island. “It takes a village to raise a child” is such a true statement. So find that village of people. Maybe it’s your parents who can come along side you to help you parent. Or maybe it’s a sibling and his or her family who can be part of your child’s growing up years to fill in the gaps. 

Manage Your Time and Priorities – When I had the chance to ask Jodi (who is super humble and down to earth) how she balances being an actress and parenting her son, she revealed, “I don’t take on multiple projects at a time. I used to, but I don’t anymore.” 

She admitted that she has earned the freedom and respect from the industry to turn projects down, which is a blessing from the Lord. However, I am sure it’s not easy to say no to good sources of income as a single mom. Jodi is a great example of someone who works hard to be a provider but recognizes that God is her ultimate provider. Prioritizing her son, as well as giving time for her weekly discipleship group, speaks volumes about her desire to put what’s most important first. It’s no wonder God is also blessing her career! 

I want to end this entry with a passage that I read a few days ago that I feel is so perfect for single moms. Whether you are a widow or abandoned by the man who should have been committed father to your child, may this minister to you. God loves you, single mom! If you honor Him and obey Him, He will certainly uphold you and provide for you. 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. ‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. ‘For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. 

‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.

‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you. ‘O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires…All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great.’

‘In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:4-8, 10-11, 13-14, 17‬ ‭

Technology and Hands-on Learning

Last year I was introduced to a company called Smart Toys, a distributor of learning materials that combine technology and hands-on learning. One of their products is called Marbotic — learning materials that were created by “tech-lovers and education experts to blend traditional wooden toys and touchscreen technology.”

Smart Numbers teach kids to count using ten beautiful wooden numbers and three educational apps inspired by the Montessori method. Smart Letters combine three apps and twenty six wooden letters to help kids learn reading and writing.

Catalina tested the Smart Letters out and she thoroughly enjoyed taking each letter and placing it on the screen to hear it’s name, sound and discover what words begin with the letter.

Marbotic is unique because it engages children with tactile experiences as they learn, but it also harnesses the advantages of technology. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s one of those educational toys/materials that you can use with succeeding children. The wooden letters and numbers are well-made, sturdy, and don’t require batteries.


Children as young as one year old can handle these with supervision and by three they can learn independently.

I also asked my kids and their cousins to sample Smart Toys‘ 3D coloring books which come in four different titles–Dino, Ocean, Safari, Bird. After kids color the pictures, they can pair them with a free app that makes their art come to life.

Other notable educational products by Smart Toys are Augmented Reality (AR) Books. These AR books come to life when you scan them with your smartphone or tablet. There are seven titles — Dino, Ocean, Safari, Farm Animals, Bug, Herptile, and Birds. 

Kids can read about creatures come to life on a page! It’s augmented reality for educational purposes. 
As a homeschool mom, I am thrilled that there are so many materials out there that I can use to teach my kids. My mom taught my siblings and I using textbooks with newsprint pages. We survived and did fine because that’s all we really had to choose from. Today, however, homeschool parents have a plethora of options for every bent and interest of their children. This is the best time in the world to be a homeschooler! 

For more information on Smart Toys please contact 0917-8877959 or follow @smartoysph on Instagram.